Beauty School Dropout

    Last weekend brought to light a lifelong problem I’ve masked in pony tails and headbands. More so than cats, men in trench coats, and even  large cargo vans with questionable plates, the fear of beauty parlors has haunted my scalp and soul for decades. As I prepared for a Saturday hair appointment, The Mister paced nervously around the house. He fidgeted, picking phantom hairs from his bald head, and gulped coffee like the biting swigs of whiskey shots. I remained calm (on the surface) convincing myself that this time was just for a small trim, a little snip that couldn’t possibly go wrong. I would treat myself to an ice cream cone afterwards, a bribe to keep myself from the typical crying and kicking and screaming.Vanilla with sprinkles. Small snip. Sugary goodness. Baby cut. Celebratory calories. I tried skipping as well, to lift the spirit and drown out the doubt. As I skipped around the sofa I questioned The Mister about his frantic behavior.

Tori Drinks The Denial Kool Aid: “What are you so bummed about?”

Dude, Where’s My Protective Shield?: “You. You just. You get all hostile with the haircuts. Really, scary, scary hostile with all the hair and cuts.

       What? Me? I had skipped and tricked myself into believing that this salon trip would be different, calming even. I would enjoy, as ladies do, the frivolous girl talk and outdated issues of Women’s Weekly. I would appreciate my time in the swivel throne as a moment of lavish relaxation and pampering. I’d absorbed enough episodes of Real Housewives to get the general notion of “luxuriating”.

      I arrived at the salon early, a request made by the stylist as she had “stuff to do” and needed my haircut to be “over yesterday”. An odd sense of humor, I thought, and ignored the signs that this beauty parlor foray was doomed before the shampoo. The hair tamer jerked my head by my chin. “Stop crossing your knees and look down,” she bossed. With my lanky legs tangled under chair and chin tucked promptly to my chest, I tried to remember the idyllic scenes of toasting champagne over eyebrow waxing and complimentary Botox injections for all luxuriators over the age of twenty-five. I was led by pinched elbow to the “blower”, a gigantic contraption meant to suck the brains from one’s head excess moisture from one’s luscious locks. I sat bow-legged for fear of crossing at the knees. My eyes glazed over as minutes passed and the whorl of the Turbo Heat Dry Max 2000 lit fire to my ears. I was in waking sleep, a trance that let me so unfortunately flow back to memories of murderous haircuts past.

     It was the Spring of 1993. My mother, an avid runner, loaded my six-year-old self into the minivan. We were headed for a special treat, she explained, and I spent the car ride counting red cars and dreaming of ice cream sundaes. We arrived at JC Penney and I allowed my trusting child heart to believe that a beautiful new dress might also be in my future. I was led by elbow to a mammoth chair at the department store salon. Perhaps they would bring the dresses to me? It was then my mother informed the disgruntled beautifier to chop it off. Chop it all off. Are they hemming my fancy dress? One hour, three nips of the earlobe, and mounds of fallen baby hair (R.I.P. Pig Tails) later, my mother’s evil plot revealed itself in the form of one pint-sized version of a man runner. My mother proudly looked on as hair inched from my lower back up, up, up to be buzzed with clippers around the ears. The sweeping bowl cut would increase my race speed by minutes and increase the likelihood of death by bullying by years

Forget the sprinkles. I need a smoke & a stiff drink, STAT!

       The next year of growth was met with relentless torment from a big brother. There were months his incessant warnings of my soon-to-sprout wiener gave me nightmares. He always knew I was a boy, he charged, and now the world knew, too. My mother, surely seeing the error of her ways, allowed me to have my ears pierced. I can only imagine this was to put the hidden gender rumors to rest, or at the very least distract the public from my hair with precious, girly earrings.

      My weeping mop of hair was left alone for several years. Eventually it perked up, realized that life was not, in fact, over, and went on to do great things like french braids and ballerina buns. With the fatal brush so far behind me, I arrived at a point where going to the salon with my mom didn’t make me want to vomit. It sounded almost fun, even.

     It was the Summer of 1999. I was a soon-to-be 8th Grader which is basically a soon-to-be highschooler which basically meant that I was a bonafied woman. A carefree Mother-Daughter Day led us to the House de Beauty to revel in all things stylish and feminine. My mother was to get her hair colored. I could have “anything I wanted”. The stylist, a sassy man with startling white teeth took this to mean that he could “work his magic” with little regard to the tab. I would need my eyebrows done, my hair color and cut done, my mom’s credit card maximum spending allotment done. As a clueless tomboy type, done implied swift and painless beauty; so I settled into the chair with a complimentary soda and let Sir SassySnip get to the done part of it all.

       Done eyebrows include scalding hot wax and strips of cloth and rippage of the cloth and wax and chunks of fresh eyebrow flesh. Through the crystal blue tint of an icepack to the forehead, I caught a glimpse of done hair as well. It involved enough foil to provide the city with quality television picture and two baked potatoes per household. In the process of getting done I smelled chemicals akin to those used in smelly indoor pools at cheap hotels. This done and done-r hair also left my ears, neck, and head region feeling mostly bare. With a delighted giggled and extra-sassy “Voila!”, I was presented to my new self in the mirror. I think I cried for days.

Yes. Katie Couric meets Sharon a rave...with glowsticks.

       The “sophisticated” style, my mother tried to comfort me, looked like a hip Katie Couric. Jagged layers spiked across the crown of my head. My hair ceased to exist beyond my quivering jaw line. Small, sharp bangs razored across my forehead. This same forehead puffed and blistered with a fiery rash where prepubescent fuzz used to innocently play. I returned to school, mistaken for the frumpy new librarian with crazy eyebrow acne.

     The heater snapped off. I tried to shake the horror from my face as I made the treacherous walk to the chair of  hair demise. The stylist asked what I wanted. I mumbled incoherently, trembling mutterings of “I hate it here” and “Sweet Jesus, not the neck”. Eventually I made it clear enough that I wanted just a tiny trim. No fancy scissor art. Like a gentle tap of the strands. An angel blowing split ends from my tips like the soft shooing of a baby dandelion. I tensed up, waiting for a seizure worthy of Steel Magnolias  and tried to muffle the knee-jerk flinching as she pulled a comb and scissor set from the murky, blue depths of the sanitizer jar.

    I staggered through the door, gripping the kitchen table for stability. The Mister, having anxiously awaited my return from the trenches, jumped to full alert. I begged for a snow cap and some duct tape. He checked for blood and other signs of torture. He tried to disguise the concerned frown on his face. I tried to pinpoint where I’d seen this particular brand of awful now residing atop my head. Yes, that’s it. The goggle-wearing fool on Disney’s Imagination Movers. At least my son would appreciate this triangle-shaped mess as we daily jump! shout! and figure things out! At all of noon-thirty, I grabbed a beer. We toasted to headbands and hats, to knowing better but doing stupid all the same.

Hope a sister looks good in a jumpsuit.

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35 thoughts on “Beauty School Dropout

  1. So, you went to the haircutting school for a practice run like I suggested for the wedding? Good for you. It’s best to do it once or twice before the big day so you get used to the hideousness of it all. Now it’s time to brainstorm!

    • We watched a DVR-ed episode of the movers this morning. It was the one where they give Eddy the monster a makeover. I wept throughout the “Friendly Guy” song :(
      I no spiffy in a jiffy.

  2. Your eyebrow waxing description is exactly why I pluck. My head is all split ends and frizz right now and I dread going for the trim. I had a stylist I loved. She was very, very good to me. Oh, why did I move?

    “We toasted to headbands and hats, to knowing better but doing stupid all the same.” So funny. I’m sorry. Once a lady in my church offered to cut my hair. It was the biggest mistake of my life. My bangs, no short stubs, stood at attention crowning my face. I looked a lot like Lady Liberty and it was not pretty. Here’s to those headbands and hats!

    By the way…I’m going to be hosting Fiction Fridays beginning the first Friday in May. I don’t know if you write fiction, but I’d love to have you join in the fun! These are the details.

  3. Haha Tori. This reminds me of the time David Letterman went to the barber, so he says. When the barber was done, David looked up at him and said, “This is nice, but..uh…do you think you could stop the bleeding?”

    When I was in grade eleven, my mom encouraged me to go see this new Parisien in town. Supposedly, he knew hair fashion like no one else. He cut my hair into a feathered pixie. My haircut was the fodder for gossip among boys who couldn’t tell me apart from my brother. Nice.

    • You. Poor. Thing. Just the mere mention of Pixie makes my eyes tear up! In that regard, I was totally lucky. She butchered my hair but was kind enough to leave it proper pony tail length :)

  4. Oh, Tori. I think it’s time you trolled Etsy for some cute hats, just as a post-traumatic-stress-treat. Here’s one that I personally liked ( (I think I like this knitter’s shop, too, actually. If only it weren’t 86 degrees already….)

    With curly hair, I utterly understand where you’re coming from. The haircut situation can be appalling. I found the one woman in my town who understands curly hair, and I’ve kept her for over six years. She’s changed salons once in those six years, but I didn’t lose her. Maybe you just need to find your amazing hair dresser of joy and wonder, too. I hope she’s around the corner just waiting to lead you to the Land of Gorgeous Coifs. :)

    • I’ve been stealing The Mister’s golf hats FOR DAYS :)
      You eyes are going to roll right out of your head, but I always wanted curly hair. It has personality, especially when compared to my thin-n-straight “cat hair” look.

  5. You know what? I’m gonna start a movement, right here and now. Enough time, money, and valuable TV hours (better used to detail the rebuild of a tank) are wasted on people’s hair! ENOUGH! Bald is the future! (The fact I’m already there, half by choice and half by nature doesn’t count.) No more shampoo, conditioner, colouring, “doos”, cuts, trims, NOTHING! SKIN IS IN!!
    (Sigh.) Yeah, I know it’s a dumb idea, and I know guys can pull off the “chrome dome” better than women. I just don’t know how you ladies do it, it would drive me nuts! (Yeah, REAL short trip in my case!) And God bless y’all for having the patience to do it. But if my “skin is in” movement ever gets going, the first AND second round’s on me for all of you! :D
    (And am I a sexist pig if I say that “80s” picture looks HOT? ;)

  6. I never went with fashion. I don’t know why, but I kept my hair short all the time. I finally grew it out my senior year and by the time we graduated, it was beautifully long, and straight with gorgeous highlights from the sun…except it had to be brushed every 3 minutes or it looked messy and mousy (ugh) brown and in my eyes, so that I always wore a pony tail. Lovely. I never could do baraids/french baraids/twists. Didn’t have the patience to part the hair and my parts were never straight!

    I was so happy my first child was a boy! Easy, get him some cool hair cuts, keep it short, buzz the back longer on top, etc.

    Then GOD blessed me with a girl, and the first thing I said at the Ultra sound “I don’t know how to do hair. What am I going to do with a girl?”

    Samantha rarely lets me put pony tails and headbands (if allowed) only remain 5 minutes tops. Lately, she has allowed me to do tiny twists using all those mini claw clips. CUTE…but I don’t worry about perfect parts. Hair is everywhere. I figure, she can figure that out later! :)


    • Haha! I wouldn’t know how to handle a daughter any more than I could speak French! I try my hardest to not care about my hair. I even tell the stylists to do “whatever” or just trim. Unfortunately the lack of caring normally shows up right around my chin and bangs region :)

    • Nope. But I sure was asked directions to the library a whole lot. It didn’t help that I decided to dress like an Amish school teacher that year. The ankle-length skirts kind of sucked all the edginess out of that hairdon’t!

  7. Hahaha… I loved the line about the quality TV and baked potatoes. Priceless!! I had many years of being mistaken for a man up top… but then confirmed as a bonafide woman thanks to my ample bosoms. Gender confusion, much? I’m sure your haircut this time around is fine– it’ll just take some getting used to. (Hopefully?) :)

    • ample bosoms…that’s all it took for a pee-in-the-pants laughing fit. My son looks worried because Mama’s crying on the floor :)
      The haircut’s pretty awful… unless it’s in a ponytail or covered with a hat. Then it looks mostly ok, just triangle shaped :(

  8. I’ve seen that Imagination Movers episode. I’m sure your hair looks nothing like that. (Please tell me you don’t have a goatee, though…that would be bad ;))

    I was also traumatized as a child. 6th grade, new school and my mom has the hairstylist cut my hair so short that even the skinny curling iron was too big to flip the ends under. Hideous. With the fit I threw, I’m pretty sure the stylist quit on the spot. It took me years to grow that mess out.

    Flash forward many years. Now I just don’t care. Sometimes I just tell them to do whatever they want with it. It grows back.

    • She DID go through the whole “earth-shattering contractions and labor” thing for me, so I’ve let the Hair Butchering of 93 slide. I’m still trying to forgive the premature eyebrow waxing though. That’s a tough one :)

  9. I loved this post, Tori!! Seriously, you had me when I saw it shared the tags Imagination Movers AND Katie Couric. How can that kind of post not contain greatness?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog – and I’m SO glad that I found yours!! Have a great rest of the week!

  10. ey im sorry..i know that torture all too well. mine mostly is in the eyebrow department. i have been in a few times where they wax off more skin than actual is horrible. i would rather pluck out hair by hair than go through that torture. but we survive right? joys of being a woman…*sigh*

  11. Girls and their hair. No wonder they have such ties to their stylists. Thank goodness my daughter is one. But she moved out of state. I still go to her :)
    My mother always kept my hair short, and I only had long hair for about 4 years of my life — until now. I’m lovin’ it. I have tried the face threading and like it.

    • Tell your daughter she might be getting a surprise visitor from Tennessee :)
      I’m always surprised because I think I am asking for pretty simple styles, nothing too elaborate or colored or any of that. And still, still I end up looking like a wet poodle :(

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